Further Education (Support for Over-25s)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd May 2013.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to encourage over-25s who are unemployed to pursue further education. (S4O-02137)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Our commitment to a consistent level in college funding of £522 million a year this year and next year makes clear our commitment to learners. The current economic circumstances mean that it is right to ask colleges to prioritise young people. However, colleges offer very valuable support to older learners—some 21 million hours of learning in 2011-12. In recognition of the important role that they play, our additional funding for next year includes a further £6.6 million for additional learner places and £1.9 million for additional childcare support.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary join me in welcoming the latest employment statistics, which show headline employment rising by 54,000 in the three-month period January to March 2013? Does he believe that the biggest risk to rising employment is Westminster?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Westminster—[Interruption]—or, as a member of the Opposition has just called it, “Westmonster”, which is an interesting way of looking at it, is a considerable problem, so the right way for Scotland to move forward is as an independent country that will be able to offer a consistent and considerable set of opportunities to older and younger learners.

It is vital that the college sector continue to ensure that its offerings are wide and widely accessible. The changes that are taking place through Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill will also guarantee that.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

One of the ways to help over-25s who are out of work is through adult learning. Has the Scottish Government joined every country in sub-Saharan Africa in signing up to the “International Adult Learners’ Charter” and, if not, why not?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

No matter what the Scottish Government did, there would be something that it was not doing that Mr Findlay would regard as being near fatal.

I am absolutely certain that the Scottish Government’s record on adult learning is good and consistent. No matter what Mr Findlay waves around, no matter what he finds to criticise, and no matter his inability to work with others, the reality is that in adult learning, college learning, university learning and school learning the Government is delivering good education in Scotland, as opposed to what Mr Findlay, who is delivering only constant oppositionalism, is doing.